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Think the Taser saves lives? Unsettling 'Killing Them Safely' wants you to reconsider

Think the Taser saves lives? Unsettling 'Killing Them Safely' wants you to reconsider
A scene from "Killing Them Safely." (IFC Films)

With the intensified focus on use of force in police departments, the unsettling documentary "Killing Them Safely" couldn't be timelier.

Filmmaker Nick Berardini's subject is the Taser, the high-voltage stun gun that has been heavily marketed by entrepreneurial brothers Tom and Rick Smith to law enforcement as a life-saving incapacitation tool. But it's also been linked to hundreds of deaths, raising disturbing questions about how thoroughly its impact on the human body was tested by Taser International, how well the company trained police forces on its use (and how tight private industry and law enforcement have become), and whether the weapon has created a "lazy cop syndrome" regarding officers' responses in the field.

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With grim determination, Berardini weaves together interviews with experts, cops, Taser's vice president and grieving family members, plus archival footage, deposition tape of the Smith brothers and multiple videos of regrettably fatal officer-involved incidents that have led to lawsuits and inquiries.

There's a mighty convincing case to be made from "Killing Them Safely" that the Taser was a product rushed to market before its risks had been fully examined, leaving the company's defensive posturing in the wake of mounting controversy sounding an awful lot like that of the tobacco industry way back when.

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"Killing Them Safely."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena.

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